Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi - transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end.
~Virginia Woolf
Sarah Sheard | Writer

Sarah Sheard, Writer and Therapist
I have written and published three literary novels. I am currently drafting my fourth. By literary, I mean that they seek to tell their own stories in a way that can’t readily be reduced to formula or niche-labeling. Each followed and created the unique shape their story demanded of them.

That said, of course I’m merely continuing the conversation literary novels have been having with one another since writing began and certainly since I began to read novels in order to understand the worlds inside people.
sarah's writing
fiction/novels
Almost Japanese
Summary: Emma discovers that her new next door neighbour is a dazzling Japanese orchestra conductor. Things Japanese soon begin to transform Emma and estrange her from her own world.
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The Swing Era
Summary: A compelling story of a woman bound to her family by all the familiar complicated ties of love and obligation — and by a history of family madness that entrapped her lovely willful mother and now haunts her own life.
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The Hypnotist
Summary: Drawn together by mutual friends and a shared love of art, Signe, a talented photographer, and WIlliam, a psychiatrist, construct a private and passionate world of two. Driven by a need to penetrate the mystery of this man, Signe tries to crack the code of his carefully guarded world of hypnosis and psychotherapy.
more about The Hypnotist

journalism
Sarah's Views

Writing at Home
“Writing at home is hard. It's, like, a focus problem. The path to the desk is paved with great distractions. There's that rental video due back so maybe you should watch it right now.”
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Angels and Devils
“We all have them in our psyches, competing for space.  Sometimes the devils are in charge—say, at 3 a.m., in that dark night of the soul.  At other times the angels take over and guide us through hours and hours of the most difficult work.”
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Rejection
“Rejection stings like hell. When we were kids, it was a matter of life and death to be liked — by family, teachers and friends — but we quickly found out that the world could be cruel and scrambled for ways to toughen our hides.”
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book reviews

Wrong About Japan
Book by Peter Carey
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Leonard Woolf: A Biography
Book by Victoria Glendinning
Read entire Book Review

book review
Be Near Me
by Andrew O’Hagan
Hardcover $32.99, 278 pp
Published by McLelland & Stewart
ISBN 0-771-06834-4
(Review originally published, February, 16, 2007, The Globe and Mail, Toronto)

David Anderton, the central character in Andrew O’Hagan’s third novel, is an Oxford-educated, middle-aged Catholic priest, abruptly posted to a small diocese in Ayreshire, Scotland. He’s become dimly aware that he’s adrift emotionally and possibly spiritually. If ever a man needed a sabbatical, it is he, but his new duties as school chaplain and parish priest won’t allow him introspection time. He prefers fine wines and a stroll through his rose garden to visiting his parishioners, who resent the bookish self-absorption poking through his folksiness. They can smell his brokenness — and his Englishness — a mile off. They’ve endured a snootful of disfunction already in the discouraged youth among them— petrol-sniffing skateboarders with tattoos and attitude, cross-addicted to ecstasy and despair.

As school chaplain, Father David comes into regular contact with these teens, and is drawn to one feral pair in particular, Mark and Lisa, like a moth to a disposable lighter. Two insightful women in Anderton’s life attempt to educate and protect him. “Always trust a stranger” his mother advises. “In this life, it’s the people you know who let you down.” David’s problem is that he can’t distinguish which is which.

His housekeeper, Mrs. Poole, warns him about the inhabitants of her bleak industrial town: “Most of these people wouldn’t give you ... the shine off their sweat.” Father David nods along, but doesn’t like to think ill of others. He needs to feed his craving to move among these young toughs, listen to their talk, offer them counsel, temper their excesses and, if he can, be a force for good. He’s voraciously naive about Mark and Lisa, smiling at their anger and their bitterness, confident that he can fraternise without risk of corruption. A pebble at his window is all it takes to lure him out to play.

His duties begin to bore him and Mrs. Poole is quick to notice. “You have changed, Father. You don’t prepare for your Masses any more. You don’t listen to the parishioners ...”

“I’ve not gone anywhere, Mrs. Poole.”

“Maybe you have ... What’s that hair gel doing on the bathroom shelf?”

What’s he done? Nothing yet. Except by now we know he’s gay and, well, gay priests befriending troubled youth ... Is it another of those stories?

Father David’s narration throws a threatening foreshadow: “Again and again, I wonder why I didn’t talk to myself ... I couldn’t stop going forward, ignoring whatever scraps of wisdom were left to me in the twilight world of that strange year.”

The reader struggles not to judge. We know of his earlier loss, the death of his first and last lover, Conor, back in his Oxford student days, a constant sorrow the man still carries: “I hear his sacred heart and see his eyes closing as he falls asleep. And I say: be near me. ‘The world is rowdy and nothing is certain ... True love is what God intends.”

This, though, as a rationale for pursuing even a platonic friendship with Mark, is sketchy. Father David is fifty-six, for starters, and Mark’s about fifteen. Appearances have a ton of substance in this narrow Ayreshire town. Father David rapidly overdraws both on the community’s trust and his young friends’. He must be made to pay. And pay he does.

Sitting in his rose garden trampled flat by the mob ... “I absorbed for a while the ruin of peace and the rising scent of lunacy ... I had met their worst fears and prejudices ... the Crown now had its bogeyman and its spot on the news.’

Father David’s always been interested in the telescope — an instrument that appears to bring distant things close. But he has yet to close the distance between the life he’s chosen and his unfinished sense of himself.

“You always had a touch of the victim,” says the bishop who’d assigned him to Dalgarnock. ‘You’ve always been an actor, David.”
He confesses to his mother: “I’m guilty of something — of many things, perhaps, but not of what they say.”

“The times are hysterical,” she says, and she’s right.

Painful events force him to acknowledge the arrested part inside himself. What finally emerges is a suggestion of the freedom that can only beckon to a man who’s burned every bridge he’s built.

Andrew O’Hagan, born in Glascow in 1968, is the author of two novels, Personality and Our Fathers, as well as the non-fiction work, The Missing. Be Near Me is an exquisitely written portrait of ambiguity in a time that’s much blighted with intolerance. This novel pushes black and white aside and insists on a diligent and unwavering examination of grey. Lest that sound bleak, O’Hagan is a formidable and witty stylist who never puts a foot wrong. His delicious and democratic ear is as adept at pleasuring us with the dialect of yobbos as that of Oxford dons. He refuses to simplify or judge any of his characters, wrapping his pen around the most vulnerable and readily stereotyped in order to slow the reader’s fast-twitch judgements to a walk.

Society is adept at joining the dots into a noose. Sometimes this is wise. This profound book invites us to search for another shape instead.

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Tools Just For Writers
coaching and therapy
Therapy is simply being in a quiet, airy room with an attentive and actively supportive/challenging listener for an uninterrupted hour.
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workshops
Writing Mentor
I offer specific and supportive feedback on the substantive issues of structure, character development, style and pacing.
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Writing Around the Bend
Strategies for Handling Writers' Issues Creatively
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Riverdale Area
Workshops Network

Workshops are also offered through Riverdale Area Workshops Network. Please check their calendar for Sarah’s upcoming workshops.
The Riverdale Area Workshops Network